Updating The Donald

After seeing such high-profile prospects as Michael Oher, Patrick Turner and Brandon Warren flee the state to play their college football the last two years, UT fans have taken an early and active interest in the future of Huntingdon linebacker Chris Donald.

He's a four-star prospect who, if not the best high school junior in the state, is certainly the best known. A two-way starter at linebacker and running back, he has helped elevate Huntingdon to perennial Class-2A power. In 2005, he rushed for over 2,000 yards and 24 TDs, while compiling 120 tackles, including 15 sacks and 32 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also had five fumble recoveries and an interception, finishing behind Warren for the Class-2A Mr. Football award.

Interestingly enough, Donald met Warren in the 2004 Class-2A championship game as Huntingdon, a prohibitive underdog, gave Alcoa all it wanted in game that saw the teams combine to score 93 points.

"I played against Alcoa in the championship game my sophomore year," Donald said. "It was an exciting game to play in. It was a high scoring game. They have a really good team. Everybody predicted us to get blown out, but we played our hardest. We made it a good game. I think the final score was 52-41. I played against Brandon Warren some when he was on offense at receiver. I was an outside linebacker and he came out to block me some. He's one of the best I've played against, but I held my own."

The Mustangs returned to the playoffs in 2005 and lost by a field goal in the semifinals to Nashville Goodpasture. Now Huntingdon and Donald are poised to make one last run at the state title.

"Last year most people didn't think we'd go as far as we did," he said. "Our line was pretty young. Now our linemen have got a whole year under their belts so they pretty much know what's going to be going on. They know what to do."

As humble as he is hungry, Donald down played the fact he rushed for over 2,000 yards behind a green O-line, and he's willing to play either offense or defense at the next level, although his future appears to be as an outside linebacker.

"Coaches have asked me which I'd rather play offense or defense," he said. "I told them: ‘it doesn't really matter just whatever would help the team out.' Wherever they need me I'll play."

It's that type of team-first attitude along with a rock solid work ethic and outstanding athleticism that makes Donald a can't miss prospect. It's also the reason he's decided to announce his decision on a college before his senior season at Huntingdon begins.

He used to play baseball but gave up the sport because it took too much time from his weight training. The decision paid off as he now bench presses 325, squats 500 and power cleans 250. He is also exceptionally quick and has standout speed.

"The last time I ran it was a 4.49," he said, "so you could say it's a 4.5. I don't know what my vertical is, but it's up there."

Obviously, Donald is a top target for Tennessee which is looking to bounce back after a substandard recruiting season, and aiming to lock up the best in-state prospects first. The Vols already have commitments from Maryville High's Tyler Maples, a 6-2, 180-pound defensive back as well as wide receiver Anthony Anderson of Knoxville Austin East. Adding Donald would be a big boost to UT's 2007 recruiting class.

There's no shortage of competition for Donald as Ole Miss and Clemson have extended offers while Miami, Florida State and Michigan are in hot pursuit. He plans to visit Ole Miss and Clemson this spring as well as UT's Orange and White Game.

The Vols appear to be in better shape for Donald than they were with Oher, Turner and Warren. Oher, who signed with the Rebels had a former Ole Miss athlete as his legal guardian. Turner grew up in Nashville and was partial to Vanderbilt. Warren lived near Knoxville, but grew up in Florida and was a Seminole fan. That's not the case with Donald.

"I grew up and spent all my life in Huntingdon," he said. "My dad grew up in Kentucky and my mom grew up in West Carroll. I've always been a Big Orange fan all my life. My cousin (Larry Smith) used to play for them. He played in the offensive line I think."

Donald has been to several Tennessee games and got to participate in the Vol Walk last season. Former Vol LB Kevin Burnett is his favorite player and the one he tries to emulate in action.

"It's just crazy up there with 106,000," he said unable to hide his enthusiasm. "That's a bunch of fans up there. I did the Vol Walk and it blew me away when I went down there. I was surprised so many people knew my name."

No one should be surprised if Chris Donald makes a name for himself at Tennessee.

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